Follow That Bird's second Tour turned out to be as an equally great birding experience as was the inaugural trip two years ago 2-8 May 2005! The conditions were similar, there was fine weather throughout the trip, central NSW was still in drought but two weeks prior to our trip, good rains fell in far west NSW, western Victoria and South Australia, so that conditions in South Australia were better than in 2005 but central NSW was worse! The number of species seen 162, was comparable to 2005 when 164 species were seen. We started our birdwatching proper when we had our first stop at Mackie VC rest area near Mittagong, where we saw our first and last Crimson Rosellas, Scarlet Robins, White-naped Honeyeaters & Brown Thornbills for the trip. Lunch at Wallendbeen saw our first White-plumed Honeyeaters and a stop at Bethunga Ironbarks yielded Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Weebill and Pied Butcherbird. Onto Junee STW, where the 150+ Plumed Whistling Ducks were a great site, and Zebra Finches, Hoary-headed Grebe, Cattle Egret, Wedge-tailed Eagle & Yellow-billed Spoonbill were some of the highlights.
Group out from Loxton
The following morning (Monday 7/5), saw our intrepid birders doing an early morning walk around Leeton's watertower where we managed to see Blue-faced Honeyeater, Black-shouldered Kite, Yellow-throated Miner and Blackbirds, among other things. Then off to the famous Fivebough Swamp Ramsar site, where we were not disappointed! Again we saw a flock of 72 Brolgas flying into feed in the Swamp, what a noise and what a spectacular sight! Most of us saw both Spotless and Spotted Crakes, there were plenty of Australian Shelducks, Cisticolas & Little Grassbirds, Red-kneed, Black-fronted & Red-capped Dotterels, a lone late Marsh Sandpiper, Swamp Harrier, both Spoonbills and White-fronted Chats. On the nearby Leeton STW ponds and birdhide, were 3 Freckled Duck, 150+ Pinkears and many Shovellers in addition to the thousands of Grey and Chestnut Teal - a feast of birds. Around Darlington Point were the usual Brown Falcon, Kestrel, White-faced & White-necked Herons but a highlight at the junction of the Sturt H'way and the Carrathool road, was a flock of 68 Black Kites feeding on mice (?) that were being disturbed by two units bailing straw from a rice crop. The Kites were diving down and around the hay bailers to pick up mice from the ground and at the same time, 4 Black Falcons were pirating the prey items from the Black Kites, with many mid-air tussles that the Falcons appeared to win! 4 Brown Falcons were partaking of this feast too but were catching their own prey! At Sandy Point, on the Murrumbidgee River at Hay, we ate our lunch watching Tree Martins, Grey-crowned Babblers, Mistletoebird, Hobby hunting at tree top height and a Great Egret feeding in the shallows! We stopped for Pipits and White-winged Fairy-wrens on the Hay plains and Blue Bonnets near Balranald.
Our morning walk amonst the Redgums at Balranald, yielded Musk Lorikeets and Yellow Rosellas, Little Corellas, a pair of hunting Hobbies, Grey Fantail and many Silveryes. It was then off to Mungo NP with stops near Penarie to see Mallee Ringnecks, Blue Bonnets and Apostlebirds, a bit furhter on Redthroats, White-winged Fairy-wrens and White-fronted Chats. At the junction of the Ivanhoe and Mungo Rds, we found two small flocks of Blue-winged Parrots, near to where we saw them last trip 2 years ago!, as well as more Redthroats, Brown Songlark & Black-faced Woodswallows. We stopped to check out a Belah patch and found Brown Treecreepers, Red-capped & Hooded Robin, Mulga Parrot, Rufous Whistler, Striped Honeyeater, Southern Whiteface & Crested Bellbird. Finally we reached Mungo NP. Instead of the dead sandy waste that we saw last time, the rolling countryside and dry lake beds were swathed in a carpet of green as far as you could see! Unbelievable! The birds as usual were scarce but we did see Emus with chicks, Chestnut-crowed Babblers, White-fronted Chats and Zebra Finches and plenty of Singing Honeyeaters. The sunlight on the golden dunes with the green background was something to see. On our way back we stopped to check out some mallee near Arumpo and found a Collared Sparrowhawk, Yellow-plumed & Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, Spotted Pardalotes & Chestnut-rumped Thornbills. Our final stop for the day was at a tank north of Penarie where 9 Pink Cockatoos were found.
Mallee Magic at
After our morning walk (Wednesday 9/5) around the Balranald Racecourse, where the highlight was a Peregrine Falcon and more Musk Lorikeets, we headed for Victoria, and just before we crossed out of NSW, a small flock of Regent Parrots flew through the vineyards. We travelled from Robinvale to Wemien and onto Hattah, seeing another 3 flocks of Regent Parrots enroute, before stopping for morning tea at the Hattah-Kulkyne NP Visitors Centre. There was water in the Lakes here and Darters were busy calling and Great Crested Grebes were found on the Lake, while overhead Whistling Kites and a Hobby kept us entertained. Onto Wyperfeld NP, entering the Park from Patchewallock and checking out a number of belah and mallee patches, before lunching at Casuarina Camp. Good birds here included Splendid Fairy-wren, Red-capped Robins, Mulga Parrot. White-browed Babbler, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Rufous Whistler, Southern Whiteface, Chestnut& Inland Thornbills. John was the first person to see the Ostrich in a paddock adjoing the Park but the guide insisted that it was not tickable!!! As the day drew to a close we reluctantly left Wyperfeld and headed to Pinnaroo (SA) via Underbool. Just south-east of Underbool we saw more Regent Parrots, Tree Martin, Hooded Robin & Peacefull Dove, amongst the more common species noted.
Walls of China at Mungo NP
Our morning walk at Pinnaroo produced our first Restless Flycatcher & New Holland Honeyeaters for the trip.A short stop at Kaarte CP found Yellow & Inland Thornbills but not much else, but at Madina Gap on Gurra Rd we did find in the mallee Grey Currawong, Grey Fantail, Common Bronzewing & White-eared Honeyeater. Other stops found Grey Currawong & Whiteface, Red-capped Robin and Singing Honeyeater. We made three stops in Billiart CP where we had great and prolonged views of Southern Scrub-robin & Gilberts Whistler, saw our first Jacky Winters for the trip, Spotted Pardalote & Yellow-plumed Honeyeater. Between Billiart & Allawoona we stopped for superb views of White-backed Swallows & Wedge-tailed Eagle. Lunching at Allawoona provided opportunities to see more Restless Flycatcher, good views of Grey Currawong, Singing & Yellow-plumed Honeyeater and Variegated Fairy-wren. By mid afternoon we were at Moorook on the Murray River where we made several stops, checking out both water and bush birds, the highlights being a feeding flock of 78 Caspian Terns, which together with 1 Whiskered Tern, we feeding with Silver Gulls and Cormorants on a fish shoal. Also seen was a Musk Duck and Hoary-headed & Crested Grebes and a Little Egret. Our final stop for the day was at Hart Lagoon, Waikerie, where the usual waterbirds were seen including Australian Shoveler, Hardhead (scarce this trip!), Black-winged Stilt and Black-fronted Dotterel.
Our last full days birdwatching (Friday 11/5) started with a cliff walk at Waikerie, the highlights of which were Purple-crowned & Musk Lorikeets and a Hobby. Down below on the Murray River were Darters, Wood Ducks, Little Corellas and Sulphur-creasted Cockatoos, while White & Straw-necked Ibis wheeled past! Then we were off, over the punt and off to Gluepot Reserve! While it was depressing as we pasted through Taylorsville Reserve, to see the ravages of the summer bushfire, which burnt out part of Gluepot Reserve as well, it was great to arrive at Gluepot, which had benefited from the recent rains and was looking great! Friday was a superb autumn sunny day and the birds in the mallee this day were the highlight of the trip. Everyone had prolonged views of White-browed Treecreepers! The Gilbert's Whistlers called well and we had a pair calling alongside a pair of Golden Whistlers at one stage. There was a fleeting view of a Crested Bellbird, and we all had stunning views of a party of 4 Chestnut Quail-thrush that fed close too us for some time. We saw three parties of Hooded Robin, found many Red-capped Robins, were enthralled by a large party of the black-capped form of the Sitella. While in Gluepot we saw Wedge-tailed Eagles, Mulga & Ringneck Parrots, a flock of Purple-crowned Lorikeets whizzed past and we saw more Dusky Woodswallows, Splendid fairy-wrens, White-browed Babblers, Grey Currawong and 7 species of honeyeaters. Our final lunch at Babbler Camp was a great gourmet experince (as usual!) and in a lovely setting amongst the mallee trees. It was sad when we had to leave and head for Gluepot because the birds kept coming!
Murrumbidgee River in Hay
Our last night was in Waikerie where we dined on the River Queen Paddle Steamer, a fitting end to a great trip. Next morning, after the usual cliff top walk at Waikerie, looking for and finding Purple-crowned Lorikeets, we headed for Adelaide airport and our return trip to Sydney. Enroute to Adelaide we saw the usual Brown Falcons & Kestrels, and as we approached the Adelaide Hills we were soon seeing Adelaide Rosellas and the common urban birds. What a great trip! . Patricia, Ailsa, Margaret, Hilary, John & Jack were great company, most people saw new species (one saw 21 new species), we all visited places that we had not seen before and the recent rains made the latter half of the trip spectacular through the softening of the landscapes and the freshness of the countryside. Janene as usual provided a different home made cake, each with a special story about it, for morning tea each day and every lunch was special for their location as well as their contents! A great experince of camaraderie and birdwatching.
by Alan Morris guiding for FTB